Beresford, William A. Department of Anatomy, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last reviewed:January 2021
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A firm, resilient connective tissue of vertebrates and some invertebrates. Cartilage (see illustration) is an important structural element found in the bodies of vertebrates and some invertebrates. It is a resistant, elastic connective tissue that provides skeletal support, anchors muscles, and enhances bone resilience. In addition, the interstitial growth of cartilage aids bony skeletal functions by enabling bones to grow in length. The firm extracellular matrix of cartilage is synthesized by large, ovoid cells (chondrocytes) located in holes called lacunae. The matrix elements are water, extended proteoglycan (protein-polysaccharide) molecules, and a network of fine collagen fibrils. The elements furnish mechanical stability and give tensile strength, but allow the diffusion of nutrients and waste to keep the cells alive. Generally, blood vessels reach only to the perichondrium of fibrous connective tissue, wrapping around the cartilage and attaching it to other tissues. See also: Bone; Collagen; Connective tissue; Skeletal system
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